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*o4             A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
with you!" But I stuck to my ground and dallied over my task, examining closely the elaborate paintings, of huge scarab-beetles and winged suns, faintly discernible amid the grime that had gathered over the vast ceiling. The bats behaved like creatures suddenly demented, scurrying to and fro as though they were in Bedlam, and wheezily voicing their annoyance with me. When at last I turned aside and descended through a narrow corridor into the region beneath the building, I heard them slowly relapse into subdued activity and saner conduct.
If the great hall was a melancholy though interesting place, the underground crypts in which I presently found myself were still more melancholy. These dark chambers were built into the tremendously thick foundation walls and they, too, were profusely decorated with carved half-reliefs that pictured the grave rites which once were celebrated within these walls.
I left these tomb-like chambers and returned to the magnificent portico. Stout doors, sheathed in glittering gold, formerly filled this doorway. I began to wander around the outside of the temple.
It was hard to believe that when it was rediscovered by Abbas Pasha, in the middle of last century, most of this temple lay under a hill of sand and debris, as in a grave; its glories awaiting rescue by the excavator's pick and spade. How many peasants must have walked over it, little knowing and little caring that the Past lay under their feet.
I paused to study, on the outside back wall, the famous relief representation of Cleopatra, who had spent her money freely to restore the place when parts of it were beginning to fall into disrepair during her lifetime, and was rewarded by having this wall-relief carved in her honour. Her little son, Cassation, stood beside her in the picture, his face curiously reminiscent of that of his great father, Julius Gesar. His mother's face, however, did not appear to me to be a true portrait, and the old Egyptian coins show a better likeness. She was the last of the long line of Egyptian queens, this famous daughter of Ptolemy, and when Julius Csesar brought his invading legions across the Mediterranean she lived with him as his mistress almost from the day he arrived. How curious, I pondered, that this woman linked Egypt through Caesar with a distant little island which was to play so powerful a part in Egypt's own history more than eighteen hundred years after. How curious, too, that these